Bremer, Herzberg tame Cougars, Mavericks advance to national championship – Minnesota State University
Bremer, Herzberg tame Cougars, Mavericks advance to national championship – Minnesota State University

ST. JOSEPH, Missouri – The Minnesota State women’s basketball team (31-5) advanced to the NCAA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship with a win over Cal State San Marcos (27-7) on Wednesday night, 70-68. The Mavericks won with a game-winning pitch from the senior Emily Herzbergwith the help of Natalie Bremer, who also had a career night, scoring 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

Cal State San Marcos started the scoring with a jumper by Truitt Riley in the corner. Destiny Bursh made a leap for the Mavericks’ first field goal of the game. A two-point jumper from the top of the key pierced the net for Bremer to give MSU a 6-2 lead. Another converted kick for the Cougars forced Mackenzie Schweim three in response, putting the Mavericks ahead by five. Free throw line made by Joey Batt led the Mavericks 11-4 with about six minutes left in the first quarter, and a pair of free throws from her extended the lead to nine.

A steal and two-pointer by Bremer brought Minnesota State into double figures for the first time in the game. CSUSM’s Ava Ranson hit a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead. A Camille Johnson layup got the Cougars to double figures and another score cut the Maverick lead to four. Riley hit a triple to cut the lead to one, stopping a 9-2 run. The first quarter ended with the Mavericks leading 19-18.

Bremer drives the baseline, weaving past his defender for the easy score to start the second quarter. Bremer made a layup with 4:28 left in the half to give Minnesota State a 27-23 lead. Bursch found Bremer crossing the lane for an easy layup to put the team back up by three. CSUSM’s Charity Gallegos made a layup, but Batt answered with a layup to put the Mavericks back up by three. Hertzberg went in for a layup to give the team a 34-30 lead over the Cougars. MSU would hold a four-point lead heading into the locker room.

Minnesota State shot 37.5 percent from the field in the first half, making one 3-pointer out of seven attempts and 9-11 from the charity stripe. The team collected more rebounds than CSUSM, 18-15. The Mavericks scored 14 points off turnovers in the first half, 10 more than their opponent.

Bremer led the way with 14 points in the first half. She also grabbed five boards and had a blocked shot and a steal. Bath scored eight in the first but picked up its third foul with 0:49 left in the second quarter. She led the team and Herzberg finished the first half with six points, four rebounds, one block and one steal.

The Cougars hit 57 percent field goal percentage, making two of their four three-point attempts, but missed half of their free throws. The team was able to find its rhythm in moments, assisting on six field goals in the first half. CSUSM also outscored MSU by eight in the paint in the first 20 minutes. Riley led the team with eight points through the first two quarters.

CSUSM got on the board first after Jordan Vazquez made a layup after three offensive boards for the Cougars. Bursch made his second shot of the game to put the Mavericks back up by four, and Batt made a contested jumper in the paint. Bremer sank a three to put MSU up 41-34 with 7:26 left in the quarter. Vasquez made an and-out to cut Minnesota State’s lead back to four.

After a 3-pointer by Gallegos, Bursch sank a fadeaway jumper to tie the game, maintaining a 45-42 CSUSM lead. A one-and-one layup by Gallegos gave the Cougars a 49-47 lead. Hannah Herzig found Hertzberg crossing the paint for an easy score, and a pair of Bath free throws cut the Cougar lead to two late in the third quarter, CSUSM leading 53-51.

That lead grew to four on a layup by Reilly. Bremer drove back down the court and into the lane for an and-one layup. She tied the score at 55-55 after making one free throw. Batt gave the team the lead with one more. A Batt steal set up another Bremer score, giving MSU a three-point lead with 7:35 left in the game.

Cal State San Marcos would go on a 6-0 run to regain the lead thanks to a huge 3-pointer from Gallegos. She hit another three to put the Cougars up 64-58. With 3:46 left, Minnesota State trailed by six.

Schwaim, who played 20 key minutes, immediately answered with a 3-pointer to turn the momentum for MSU. Herzberg sank a two-point jumper to cut the deficit to one, forcing a Cougar timeout. The Mavericks forced a turnover, setting up Bremer for a layup to take a 65-64 lead. It gave the sophomore 1,000 career points. The native of Lake City, Minnesota became the 26thth player in program history to reach the milestone.

The Cougars stole the lead with a pair of free throws, but once again Bremer came up with another clutch layup to give the Mavericks the lead back. After another pair of free throws sank by CSUSM, Herzberg tied the game, making one of two from the charity stripe from the other end with 0:21 left.

With Herzig’s face protecting her, Ava Ranson lost her footing and in a last-ditch effort to score for her team, she kicked the ball, resulting in a turnover; Maverick possession with 0:05 remaining.

Herzberg passed the ball to Bremer. A double team crashed onto the ball, allowing Hertzberg to make a putback into a wide open lane. Bremer hit it perfectly in stride and Herzberg scored the game-winning bucket, putting the Mavericks up 70-68 with 0.3 seconds on the clock, not enough time for the Cougars to surge ahead. With the win, Minnesota State advanced to the National Championship game.

Minnesota State shot 39.4% from the field (26-66 FG) in the game, going 3-17 from three (17.6% 3FG) and 15-24 from the charity stripe (62.5% FT). The team grabbed 11 fewer rebounds than the Cougars, but had one more offensive rebound. The Mavericks had 14 steals and forced 27 turnovers, scoring 24 points on those turnovers. Minnesota State has forced over 1,000 fumbles this season, with 1,008 heading into the final game.

Bremer had a historic night. She scored a season-high 29 points on 13-24 shooting (54% FG), just one point shy of her career best. She turned 26th player in Minnesota State history to score 1,000 career points. Bremer also finished with nine rebounds, an assist of the night, a block and two defensive steals. It was her ninth 20-point game of the season.

“HER-zberg” finished with 13 points, seven boards, two assists, a block and three steals. The senior, who is averaging 10.8 points and shooting 39 percent from three in postseason play, was the hero of the game.
Bath didn’t have his best night offensively, scoring 13 points on 3-15 shooting. Instead, she excelled defensively. Batt finished with four steals and was all over the court. The three-time NSIC Defensive Player of the Year lived up to the title.

Bursch finished with six points with two dimes and a steal. With his first score of the night, Bursch moved to 10th in the Mavericks all-time. Schweim was terrific for the Mavericks, scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting, including two 3-pointers. She recorded three rebounds in the game.

Cal State San Marcos shot 45.5% from the field (25-55 FG), including 5-13 (38.5% 3FG) from deep and 13-21 (62% FT) from the line. Gallegos led the Cougars with 20 points. She also had four rebounds, five assists, one steal and seven turnovers. Vasquez had 16 points and a phenomenal 20 rebounds in the loss.

There were seven ties and 11 lead changes in the game, including six lead changes in the final five minutes.

With the win, Minnesota State improved to 31-5, one win shy of the program’s single-season wins record set by the 2008-09 National Championship team. That Mavericks team went 32-2 and defeated Franklin Pierce in the highest-scoring championship final in NCAA DII history, 103-94. The last and only other time the Mavericks made a championship appearance was in 2008-09.

This Minnesota State team will face No. 2 seed Texas Women’s University (34-4) in a rematch on Friday, March 29 at 7:00 pm at St. Joseph Civic Arena. The Mavericks fell to the Pioneers at the MSU Billings Tournament in early November, 76-71.

Minnesota State now has a chance at redemption, and the team has beaten every opponent it has faced this season. First, the Mavericks defeated the Bulldogs of UMD at Romano Gymnasium in Duluth and defeated both Fort Hays State and Southern Nazarene in the semifinal and final rounds of the NCAA Central Region Tournament.

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